Violent attacks against humanitarian workers triple in last decade: OCHA study

10:39, April 13, 2011      

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Violent attacks against humanitarian workers tripled in the last decade which left over 100 people dead per year, said a new study commissioned by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on Tuesday.

With recent attacks over the past few weeks against humanitarian workers in Afghanistan and Cote d'Ivoire, the OCHA study titled "To Stay and Deliver," spotlighted the types of security risks that humanitarian actors undertake when they are in complex security situations.

Deadly attacks were seen mostly in a few conflict areas where violence has increased significantly, such as in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia, the study said.

"Today, humanitarian workers are in some of the most volatile and insecure environments in the world," Valerie Amos, UN under- secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, said in an OCHA press release on Tuesday. "Even as they come under increasing attack, they find ways to continue delivering life-saving services to populations in need."

International personnel face a higher incident rate per capita than national staff, particularly in the most extreme internationalized conflict environments, said the study.

The study examined practices that allowed organizations to conduct work in high-risk areas, as they maintained their operations in addition to providing protection and life-saving services to people in need of treatment.

Acceptance-building was highlighted in the study as a good practice for humanitarian actors to manage risk by building up on local outreach and promoting community ownership.

It said that gaining acceptance is a process that needs constant dialogue with all actors.

For example, a UN agency in Afghanistan reported success by using a "formula for projects," where the community brings a third of the resources, the government ministry an additional third, and the agency the remaining third, said the study.

The study also cited concern over shrinking access to affected people in violent areas from a variety of factors including targeted attack on humanitarian actors, high levels of criminality, terrorist attacks in civilian areas, among some.

But the study also revealed that despite those factors, humanitarian actors have found ways to continue delivering life- saving services to affected people.

The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence "do matter," OCHA also highlighted.

Looking at how humanitarian aid workers cope with risk inside the UN's security management framework, the study said it has progressed from "when to leave" to "how to stay."

Mapping the highest risk settings and the type of threats involved by using this determination to allocate staff and resources was offered as a key recommendation to organizations.

The independent study commissioned by OCHA was undertaken in 2010.

Source: Xinhua
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